East Tennessee fruit farmers battle new pest invasion

East Tennessee fruit farmers battle new pest invasion

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The vinegar fly targets fruits like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, just to name a few. The vinegar fly targets fruits like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, just to name a few.
This pest makes its home inside the berry. This pest makes its home inside the berry.
Experts say the first step to preventing the pest from attacking your fruit is setting traps baited with yeast, sugar and water, then spraying insecticide weekly. Experts say the first step to preventing the pest from attacking your fruit is setting traps baited with yeast, sugar and water, then spraying insecticide weekly.
By LAURA HALM
6 News Reporter

MARYVILLE (WATE) - A warning for fruit and berry farmers: there's a new pest invading crops in Tennessee called the vinegar fly from Asia. It was first found invading crops in California in 2008. Agriculture experts with UT say this pest is now spreading through Tennessee.

We went to Blount County where local farmers are being urged to take preventative measures. So far though, there have been no confirmed cases of the vinegar fly in any berries.

To keep strawberries ripe, red and pest free, strawberry farmer Steve Rutherford is taking a proactive approach.

"Once a week we alternate using a very mild insecticide so we do not have that problem," he said.

Rutherford has been warned about the vinegar fly, which targets fruits like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, just to name a few. This pest makes its home inside the berry.

"As we know when the eggs hatch, the baby of a fly is a maggot and few of us would want maggots in our strawberries," said Rutherford.

Experts say the first step to preventing the pest from attacking your fruit is setting traps baited with yeast, sugar and water, then spraying insecticide weekly.

That is exactly what Rutherford is doing even though he's been lucky so far and hasn't had any run-ins.

"You have to get rid of the fly one way or the other," he said.

The problem is it's a small pest that can cause big problems.

"You do what it takes to protect your crop and to keep your customers happy," added Rutherford.

If you're a backyard gardener, you can always ask your local UT extension office about steps you can take to prevent your crops from new pests and diseases.

We're also told because the vinegar fly is so new to Tennessee, experts are still developing the best methods for control.

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